Someone asked me to write this piece in a comment on one of my previous posts, so here you go!

When I bought my car it had 135,000 miles, good paint in a very rare color, mint interior, with very little rust, a few high-dollar tasteful modifications, and was in excellent mechanical condition for something in the mid-$4k range. These days you will struggle to find a supercharged model in similar condition for less than $4500 or so, but a good NA model can be had for $2-3k. If you aren't afraid to turn a wrench, one with some simple easy fixes can be had for just a few hundred bucks. As far as fun-for-the-buck value, these cars are very difficult to beat.


Repair Cost/Difficulty/Common Issues

One of the best things about the AW11 is the Toyota parts bin nature of its construction. Mechanical parts are usually easy to find, but MR2-specific parts (especially Supercharged-specific) can be a real challenge to find, due to the fact that the 4A-GZE engine was only available for two years in one model. Being an old car, most of these will be needing some maintenance and repair. Luckily parts are not usually terribly expensive, and because it's a Toyota you won't usually have to fix things twice. Because the engine is mounted in the middle of the car, it does make things a bit harder to work on sometimes, but I've found that it's no harder than working on any transverse-mounted front-wheel-drive car. I think the worst thing I've done is dropping the transmission while keeping the engine in the car. Trying to re- install it like that is not fun, and it would be so much simpler to just drop the whole thing. Common issues vary from model to model, but the number one thing to look for is rust, but that's typical of any Japanese car this old.

Aftermarket support/Modifications

The AW11 has nowhere near as huge of an aftermarket as it's newer brothers, but there are all kinds of things you can do if you know where to look. I could list all of the things I've done on this car but it wouldn't be very interesting to read. With the right modifications, these cars can go from a fun, tossable runabout to a serious corner carving machine very easily. The 4A-G engines still have a huge following, and have over a quarter century worth of knowledge built up over the years that you can tap into on various online forums. Pretty much everything that can be done has been done with these cars, so the know-how is out there, you just have to dig for it sometimes!


Driving Impressions

The first thing I noticed about driving an AW11 was the steering feel. The lack of power steering (no AW11 has power steering) combined with the fact that there is no heavy engine up front to steer around means this car has the best steering feel of any car I've ever driven. Adding a quick-ratio rack and pinion and an aggressive alignment only makes it better. The eagerness to change direction is fantastic as well, thanks to a chassis that Toyota decided to make stiff and solid, rather than flimsy and light.


This car is also not for the faint of heart. A few months after I bought the car, 19-year-old me tried to drift it in the rain and quickly found out that once it slides, the rear end comes back. Hard. And wants to keep going the other way, spinning you into the opposite direction, and in my case, a curb. Don't treat this car lightly, it's not like a front-engined car where you can slide it around care free all day. This car was designed for grip, and while you can slide it, you have to really know what you're doing, and know the car.


Daily Driver?

It is also a surprisingly practical car. It has a good-sized trunk out back, and a usable frunk up front as well. Interior space is great as long as you are under 6 feet tall. All the controls are very driver-focused and within short reach of the steering wheel. Visibility is excellent, with the hood sloping so sharply it feels like you're looking straight down at the road, giving the AW11 interior a very cockpit-like feel. Fuel economy is high 20's city to mid 30's highway for the NA models, and mid 20's city, around 30 highway for the supercharged cars.


Many cars these days claim go-kart-like handling, but often it's just a marketing gimmick. If you've never driven a well-kept AW11, you owe it to yourself to experience a true street-legal kart.